Friday, January 29, 2016


She is the world-wide bestselling author whose identity is unknown. Her pen name is Elena Ferrante and she appears to be Italian, but because she gives no interviews and refrains from any exposure on social media, her true name has not been discovered. Ferrante has remained anonymous since the publication of her first work in 1992. She once said, “I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors.” Her books about women and their struggles and interior lives have been critically praised for deep characterizations and originality.

Ferrante’s best known books can be found in her Neapolitan series, four titles that compose a single book. These four novels, all centered in the Italian city of Naples, are owned by the Monrovia Public Library. These are complex and thoughtful books for those who like a reading challenge.

My Brilliant Friend begins the series about two best friends, Lila and Elena, who meet as children after World War II and continue a lifelong friendship, although their lives will take different paths.  This first book has a high degree of reality and shows the difficult lives of children growing up in a working class neighborhood. Book two is The Story of a New Name and covers the friends’ lives in their twenties, one entering an unhappy marriage and the other pursuing an education.

Next is Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay with Lila having taken her child and left her husband and Elena rising in her career and publishing a book. This volume studies their friendship and how it waxes and wanes and focuses on the choices, good and bad, these women make. The New York Times chose book four The Story of the Lost Child as one of the best reads of 2015. Both Lila and Elena have returned to their home in Naples, which they originally had tried to escape.

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